Overlegalization of Special EdDisputes - Part II

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently heard an excellent presentation at the California Special Ed Law Conference by Perry Zirkel on the overlegalization of special education He cited some of his published articles and other studies. One simply counted the number of legal citations per decision and found an increase over the years. Others showed the increase in due process hearings.

He also talks about the reaction to overjudicialization of special ed: distrust, the development of cottage industries and the scapegoating of the neutrals. The distrust is apparent at hearings. By the time parents and districts get to a due process hearing, there is generally a lot of venom. It's hard to believe that IDEA's "collaborative" model can succeed after a hearing is over.

The cottage industries development is interesting. I suppose we should never count out the possibility of entrepreneurs finding a market. I guess that this category now includes me. Cool, I always wanted to have a cottage!

The scapegoating of the neutrals happens throughout society. At baseball games, we always boo as the umpires take the field. But the reaction to due process hearing officers is extreme, even for umps. At some conferences, I have actually seen people spit on the ground when they learn that they are in the presence of hearing officers.

I generally agree with this diagnosis. I have previously mentioned the possibility of adapting the Inquisitorial method of fact-finding to these special ed disputes- although as you will see in the next post in this series, I haven't exactly refined my thinking in that regard.

But one critique that I expressed at the conference, is that I think one has to distinguish between the 8 to 10 states that have over 80% of the due process hearings and the rest of the country. In the other states, I generally hear from people that there are no lawyers who will represent parents. Now mid you, I'm not advocating more hearings, but I do think that if there are never any hearings or only rare ones, the system isn't working properly. Maybe in some places the system is underlegalized.

What do you think?